FORT SMITH - Arkansas point guard signee Anton Beard has been clutch all throughout his high school basketball career and Saturday night was no exception.
Beard (6-1, 180) scored 15 of his game-high 20 points in the first half and was named the MVP of the Coca Cola Classic after leading his North Little Rock squad over Springdale 69-57 in the championship game of the event.
Beard capped his first-half performance with a 30-foot, buzzer-beating 3-pointer that gave the Charging Wildcats (10-1) a 33-30 advantage at halftime.
"If I have to score 20 or more, I will do it, but I am more focused this season on becoming a better all-around point guard and doing whatever I have to do to help my team win," Beard said. "Mostly that's just going out there and playing hard every night."
K.J. Hill added 17 and fellow Charging Wildcats junior star KeVaughn Allen added 15 as both were also named to the All-Tournament on a night when the team was 7-of-9 from 3-point range.
Beard - who was 4-of-4 from 3-point range - is the clear leader of a star-studded squad according to North Little Rock head coach Johnny Rice, whose team won its second straight Coca Cola Classic title.
"He is a tremendous leader, one of the best I have ever been around," Rice said. "He is just so solid for us on and off the floor. He is very vocal, makes sure people are where they are supposed to do and his play just speaks for itself."
Beard transferred in from Little Rock Parkview Hill from Bryant, 6-4 sophomore Adrian Moore from Conway, Khalil Gulley from Little Rock Hall and 6-10 Sam Dunkum from Little Rock Christian.
"Most of us came in from different schools and it is just a matter of working together and coming together to try and win a state championship," Beard said. "Right now we are succeeding. Everybody knows their role on the team and everybody has confidence in one another."
North Little Rock went 2-0 last weekend in the Winter Snow Jam Tournament in Milwaukee.
Beard had 27 points as the Charging Wildcats downed San Jose, Calif., Archbishop Mitty 77-74 and then he had 18 as his team dropped Brooklyn Park, Minn., Prairie Seeds Academy 91-53.
It came after the program's first loss in 31 games – to Beard's old Little Rock Parkview team 65-55 in the Jammin' for Jackets Tournament in Little Rock.
"It was a good experience up there," Beard said. "We went up there and played some of the best teams in the nation and it was good for us as a team to go up there and win both games. It built our confidence back up."
Beard realized a life-long dream back on Nov. 14 when he signed his letter-of-intent with Arkansas during a ceremony at his school.
He chose the Razorbacks over Missouri, Tennessee, LSU, UMass and many others.
"That day was one of the biggest days of my life and really any athletes life to be able to go to college for free," Beard said. "I wanted to make my mom, my dad and my family proud of me.
"I cried because it was such a blessing and I thank God and just need to keep working," Beard added.
He likes what he sees from the Razorbacks (10-2) thus season.
"I see a lot more aggression in this season's team," Beard said. "They are playing a lot harder than what they did last year and coming out with a lot of wins. Coach Anderson is doing a great job with the team and leading them to wins."
Beard Notches Tourney MVP
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